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'Dallas loves gaming': Esports take center stage in North Texas to kick off the summer

It was a big weekend for esports as tens of thousands descended upon the DFW area for the DreamHack gaming festival and a massive Overwatch tournament.

DALLAS — For years, North Texas has proven it's becoming a hub for esports and video games -- and not just for the U.S. The area is certainly garnering international attention.

If more proof is needed, look no farther than this weekend.

Not one, but two major gaming events were held in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex this weekend, which drew tens of thousands of fans to the area to celebrate esports.

DreamHack

DreamHack, an international gaming brand that holds festivals around the world, had its event in Dallas for the first time in three years, and the excitement over the return of large, in-person events was evident this weekend.

Crowds packed the Kay Bailey Hutchison Center, as fans had many options on their gaming plates such as live competitive matches and rows of tables filled with consoles and PCs for attendees to play against one another.

Organizers told WFAA that the event saw more than 33,000 attendees from 50 states and 29 countries over three days.

Championship matches of popular video games Rocket League and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive were featured at the convention, and fans were able to cheer on their favorite teams.

Colleges from North America and Europe took part in a Rocket League championship tournament at DreamHack. DFW was represented by the University of Texas at Arlington esports team.

With a brand that's so internationally known and has hosted its main events in Sweden and other countries, what brought DreamHack to Dallas? Shahin Zarrabi, vice president of strategy and growth for DreamHack, told WFAA that North Texas was just the right fit.

"Dallas loves gaming. So many gamers here, esports teams, organizations. We came here in 2019 for our first event in Dallas, coming from Austin before," Zarrabi said. "Dallas has shown us so much love, so it was a given for us to come back here."

After having to navigate through the COVID-19 pandemic and having to cancel 2020 and 2021 events, Zarrabi said he's glad DreamHack is back in Dallas and that it's becoming something more than just an esports event.

"We want to create a platform for everyone to come and connect, to explore, to be themselves. Everything gaming under one roof. That doesn’t mean you have to sit and play or watch someone else play," Zarrabi told WFAA. "It could be that you dress up as someone in a video game... or that you meet your favorite creators from online."

"We want to create that platform, that arena, for people to come and just be who they are and follow their passion," he added.

And of course, the city of Dallas is also seeing the rewards from the large gaming festival. 

According to Zarrabi, the 2019 event in Dallas generated about $3.6 million for the city.

"I hope Dallas loves us as much as we love them," he said.

Overwatch League Kickoff Clash

And, about 20 minutes to the west of the Dallas convention center, another major esports event was happening at the same time.

Overwatch, a popular first-person shooter, was at the center of this event as the game's esports league held a $225,000 tournament -- the Overwatch League Kickoff Clash -- at Esports Stadium Arlington.

The Dallas Fuel, a team owned by Dallas-based organization Envy Gaming, was the host city, as professional teams from around the country and thousands of fans descended upon North Texas. This weekend's tournament was the first major in-person event of 2022 for the Overwatch League.

Geoff Moore, president of Envy Gaming, told WFAA that events like this are proof that the North Texas area is becoming a massive esports hub.

"It brings a lot of people who love [Overwatch] in from outside the state of Texas, from other cities in Texas to Arlington and the Dallas-Fort Worth area," Moore said. "It really is fulfilling the vision that the city of Arlington had when they invested in creating this venue that they would bring people from all over the country and even other countries to events like this based on what these people really have a pent up demand to see live and share with each other."

Organizers told WFAA over 4,000 fans attended the four-day event.

Back in March, Esports Stadium Arlington also hosted the first major 2022 event for the Call of Duty League, where thousands cheered from a sold-out crowd. Dallas' own OpTic Texas, which is a part of Envy Gaming, took home the grand prize in that event.

Organizers told WFAA about 75% of ticket buyers for that event were from outside the DFW area.

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